Zo! - Sunstorm

Zo!
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Foreign Exchange Music is at it again with the release of producer and multi-instrumentalist Zo!'s Sunstorm. After contributing to a number of Foreign Exchange projects such as Yahzarah's The Ballad Of Purple St. James and Little Brother's curtain call album Leftback, Zo! has delivered a palette of uplifting and passionate soul offerings that are sure to please. Channeling his inner Quincy Jones, Zo! has crafted an impressive album of his own sonic vision with the help of amazing vocalists such as Sy Smith, Lady Alma, Darien Brockington, Yahzarah, Carlitta Durand, Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, Jesse Boykins III, Chantae Cann, Monica Blaire, and Eric Roberson. Sunstorm is truly the Back On The Block of 2010.

Foreign Exchange Music is at it again with the release of producer and multi-instrumentalist Zo!'s Sunstorm. After contributing to a number of Foreign Exchange projects such as Yahzarah's The Ballad Of Purple St. James and Little Brother's curtain call album Leftback, Zo! has delivered a palette of uplifting and passionate soul offerings that are sure to please. Channeling his inner Quincy Jones, Zo! has crafted an impressive album of his own sonic vision with the help of amazing vocalists such as Sy Smith, Lady Alma, Darien Brockington, Yahzarah, Carlitta Durand, Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, Jesse Boykins III, Chantae Cann, Monica Blaire, and Eric Roberson. Sunstorm is truly the Back On The Block of 2010.

Zo!'s production has always been a sound synonomous with positivity. Performing almost all of the instruments on each track, he has a style that is quite light-hearted and envigorating regardless of the nature of the lyrics. Thankfully, everything on Sunstorm follows the direction of Zo!'s outstanding production.  

From the jump, Zo! delivers "Greater Than the Sun" ft. Phonte and "Greatest Weapon Of All Time" ft. Sy Smith with similar energies that mimic a sunrise. In the former, he injects his cascading piano progressions throughout the song. As if a Prince guitar solo, his wondrous piano play tattoos his style upon the track as the catalyst for the soul experienced. On "Greatest Weapon," Zo! brilliantly showcases Sy's voice through a majority of the song while reserving a moment near the track's end to highlight his playing and make the song a more complete collaboration.

The Back On The Block comparisons come due to the genre-bending work that dominates Sunstorm,  bridging contemporary jazz and modern soul. The effortless hip hop additions of Little Brother teammates Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh weave into Zo!'s vision of positivity for the album as if the songs would be incomplete without their delivery. And the jazzy Lady Alma channels her inner playful Jill Scott on the sublime "Free Your Mind."  Throughout, Zo! showcases the talents of various talented, relatively unknown artists, allowing them to shine and provide a completely new type of energy. His single and universal dance tune "This Must Be The Night" (featuring Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington, and Rapper Big Pooh) is a great example of this as well. Upbeat and radio friendly, this song could easily fit within an old school soul session without feeling too out of place

Zo! even blends in a few jazzy instrumentals (one of which was highlighted with a few vocals from Phonte) with the flute (by Claudia Hayden) led "For Leslie"and "Flight Of The Blackbyrd." Both songs are well placed in the tracklist and manage to work as an interlude of sorts to transition different parts of the album. Where "For Leslie" eases the listener into a jazzier section of the album, "Flight of the Blackbyrd" winds you up to allow you exhale into the slower and smoother end of the album.

Zo! goes one step further at the end of this album with a sensual delivery entitled "Make Luv 2 Me" ft. Monica Blaire. Here he channels his own "Secret Garden," allowing his vocalist to shine as they extend this slow jam essential into a 10 minute offering of bliss. This song is truly one that should not be missed

Even though Zo! doesn't pack the star power in Sunstorm that Quincy did back in the day, this album most assuredly is a Foreign Exchange All-Stars effort that, despite the number of artists involved, is both impressively cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable. With a wide range of energies, moods, and tempos, Zo! has delivered a home run of soul that should be celebrated. Highly recommended.

By B.J. Bunneh Brown

 
SoulTracks Choice Cut - Toni Redd - "Underneath My Skin"
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Sneak Peek - Raul Midon - Bad Ass and Blind

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